Texas-based norteño band Los Rieleros del Norte appear in full sartorial splendor in this fold-out poster accompanying their album Aventura Pasada (Fonovisa, 1997).
The CD is newly cataloged at the SFC as CD-12374.
All of us at the Southern Folklife Collection extend our most sincere gratitude to all the people that worked to make our 25th anniversary celebrations a wild success. To all the musicians, writers, library staff, volunteers, and especially to our researchers, patrons, and all those that attended our concerts and programs, we thank you. These photos by Mark Perry Photography are just a glimpse into the weekend events and we’ll have more to share in the future. The SFC 25th Anniversary exhibit detailing the history of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation and the birth and growth of the SFC will be open to visitors to Wilson Library through December 2014 so please do stop by for a viewing. Also, if you haven’t had a chance, our exhibit “Lard Have Mercy!: 30 years of Southern Culture on the Skids” has extended for three more weeks. It’s going to be a great Fall so keep in touch.
Newly cataloged at the SFC is a 1953 release by the Carolina Kings of Harmony on Trumpet Records, call no. 78-16736. Trumpet Records was based at 309 N. Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi, at a combined furniture and record store in one of the city’s African American commercial districts. When Lillian McMurry and her husband (both white) first moved into the space, Lillian found some 78rpm R&B records that the previous tenant had left behind. Upon listening to the records, she fell in love with the sound and decided to sell recordings by black artists out of the store. She also attended blues and gospel performances by touring musicians at the Alamo Theater down the street and got the idea to start her own label featuring those genres.
In the summer of 1950, Lillian established her label as the Diamond Record Company—and then learned that Diamond was already in use as a record label name. Since she planned to record music with a spiritual theme, she chose Trumpet Records as a second option—“trumpet” referring to the angel Gabriel’s signature instrument. Lillian searched for talent at the Alamo, in her shop’s listening booths (where customers often sang along to the records), and through word-of-mouth. When she heard about vocalist and harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II, she canvassed the area until she found him. Sonny Boy went on to record a number of songs for Trumpet between 1951-1955 before signing to Chess Records. According to Marc Ryan in his book on Trumpet Records, Sonny Boy had such respect for Lillian that he observed her requests to leave all weapons outside the recording studio, as well as to stop all foul language on the Trumpet premises.
The Carolina Kings of Harmony met Lillian and signed a contract with Trumpet after a tour stop in Jackson. Consisting of lead singer Weldon Gill (who also ran a diner in Lewisburg, NC), along with William Battle, T.D. Jones, Vernon Joyner, Bennie Ruffin, Paul Cooley, the group recorded four sides in April 1953 in Raleigh, NC. Dubs of the recordings were then sent on to the Audio Company of America in Texas for mastering. Two of the tracks, “Going On Home to Glory” and “There’s a Narrow Path to Heaven” were released as Trumpet 207; the other 2 were not released until the 1994 Alligator Records compilation, In the Spirit: The Gospel and Jubilee Recordings of Trumpet Records.
We’ve included an excerpt from “There’s a Narrow Path to Heaven” here:
Though Trumpet Records only lasted until 1955 (partly because there was so much competition in the Southern gospel and blues market at the time), it has since become known as the first nationally known Mississippi-based label. Additionally, Lillian McMurry is now recognized as a key figure in the birth of American rock ‘n’ roll and as someone who resisted racial segregation of 1950s Mississippi. In 1998 she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Her papers, including significant documentation of Trumpet Records, are available for research at University of Mississippi’s Special Collections.
In just over one month, Southern Folklife Collection will celebrate our 25th Anniversary, August 21-August 23. As one of the nation’s foremost archives of Southern vernacular music, art, and culture, available for research in the University’s Wilson Special Collections Library, the Southern Folklife Collection is honored to had the opportunity to serve as an educational resource, an archive dedicated to collecting and preserving cultural heritage, and a focal point for the public appreciation of Southern art forms for 25 years.
Since its opening in 1989, the SFC has grown to contain over half a million items including sound recordings, moving images, photographs, manuscripts, books, song folios, serials, posters and ephemera. The Collection is especially rich in materials documenting old-time, country-western, bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, rock, Cajun and zydeco music. The SFC holds numerous recordings on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, including Dolly Parton’s first recording “Puppy Love.”
As part of the Southern Folklife Festival, we are presenting a number of events. You can visit our event website, sfc25th.web.unc.edu for more details, and come back to Field Trip South where we’ll highlight the our programs over the coming weeks.
August 21-23 is going to be a really good time to be in Chapel Hill.
We hope you can join us!
Newly cataloged at the SFC (call no. 78-16864) is a 1952 release by the Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers, a short-lived ensemble on a short-lived label, both based out of Wilkes County, North Carolina.
The oldest of the three Church Brothers, Bill Church, had played during the 1940s with Roy Hall & his Blue Ridge Entertainers and on a radio show in Asheville, N.C. called “Farm and Fun Time.” After serving in World War II, he and his brother Ralph began playing with cousin Ward Eller and a few other locals—Drake Walsh (son of Dock Walsh), Gar Bowers and Elmer Bowers. Eventually a third Church brother (Edwin) joined the group. Calling themselves the Wilkes County Entertainers, they played on the local radio stations WILX and WKBC and at schoolhouse shows.
By the 1950s they were performing as the Church Brothers and their Blue Ridge Ramblers and making recordings with a lineup featuring Bill Church (guitar), Edwin Church (fiddle), Ralph Church (mandolin), Ward Eller (guitar), Ralph Pennington (bass), and Johnny Nelson (banjo). They also began recording songs written by a local lyricist, Drusilla Adams. Initially the band planned to have these recordings come out on Rich-R-Tone Records (at the time based in Johnson City, TN). Because of various delays, Drusilla and her father decided expedite the process by setting up their own Wilkesboro-based label called Blue Ridge Records, which issued several Church Brothers singles. Blue Ridge Records went on to record the Stanley Brothers and Bill Clifton; the label lasted until 1958 when Noah Adams passed away and it was sold.
The single “No One to Love Me,” featured here, received a somewhat mixed review from Billboard magazine: “A lively performance by the Church Brothers with hoedown accompaniment of a so-so piece of material.” About the B-side, “You’re Still the Rose of my Heart,” the critic simply stated: “More of the same.”
We’ve provided an excerpt from “No One to Love Me” here:
In addition to their releases on Blue Ridge, the Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers eventually did go on to sign a contract with Rich-R-Tone, recording several tracks for that label. In 1952, the group disbanded—though the members continued to play on their own at various dance events in the Wilkesboro area.
The Church Brothers’ output on Blue Ridge Records and was later released on LP compilations by Gerd Hadeler Productions and Rounder Records. These LPs are also available at the SFC, as FC-4743 and FC-2046, pictured below.
An article and video feature on former Rambler Ward Eller’s experiences with the band appeared in the March 2014 issue of Mountain Music Magazine.
Lovers of North Carolina folklore have a lot to celebrate this year. The Southern Folklife Collection celebrates our 25th Anniversary this year with numerous events August 21 through August 23. See our event website, SFC25, and follow Field Trip South for more information as we lead up to the event. Tickets are on sale now for Memorial Hall concerts featuring the Rebirth Brass Band, Tift Merritt and Merle Haggard. See more information from Carolina Performing Arts.
In other celebratory news, Our good friends at the North Carolina Folklife Institute are kicking off their 40th anniversary commemoration this weekend at the Festival For the Eno. The NCFI has been sharing fantastic photo documentation of the 1974, 1975, and 1976 festivals on their website and Facebook page, highly recommended viewing. They also encouraged us to look back into the SFC for sound recordings of the events, which we located and are in the process of digitizing. Performances from the 1974 festival, organized on the campus of Duke University by George Holt, are documented on open reel tapes FT3418 through FT3421. Performers included Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham, Elizabeth Cotton, The Golden Echoes, Willie Trice, Ernest East, The Blue Sky Boys, The Bluegrass Experience, and many more. We are excited to share some clips of these performances from FT3419 (pictured above) with you and encourage you to visit the NC Folklife Institute table at the Festival for the Eno this coming weekend. Happy Fourth of July!
Introduction from George Holt
Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham
The Blue Sky Boys
The Bluegrass Experience
Our Photos of the Week this time feature 2 examples of tobacco barns taken from the CD-ROM companion to John Michael Vlach’s 2003 book Barns (Norton/Library of Congress). The book and accompanying disc feature black & white photos of barns across the U.S., taken by a variety of photographers, and currently housed the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
The photo above shows an air-cured tobacco barn in Lexington, KY and was taken in 1940 by Marion Wolcott. The one below shows a flue-cured tobacco barn (with advertising for Lucky Strike) near Gordonton in Person County, NC. It was taken by Dorothea Lange in 1939.
We love hearing from our students about their work in the Southern Folklife Collection as they explore our holdings and find artifacts of expressive cultures they are often experiencing for the very first time. In this post we hear again from SFC student Zach Gossett. Enjoy.
Pulling this Columbia disc out of stacks and putting it on the turntable definitely was my first experience with the excitement, the intrigue, and the joy that no doubt inspires record enthusiasts and collectors; this was a piece of history in my hands, the first commercial Cajun recording. While researching another Cajun artist, fiddle player Rufus Thibodeaux, I briefly searched “Allons à Lafayette” from his record Cajun Fiddle (FC1111). Not only did I discover who originally recorded the tune, but also that we had a copy of that recording on 78 rpm disc.
Accordion player Joe Falcon and guitarist (and future wife) Cleoma Breaux recorded “Lafayette (Allon a Luafette)” on April 17, 1928. The many Cajun song-titles bearing “Waltz (Valse)”, “Dance”, or “Two-Step”, emphasize danceability of Cajun music as integral to the style. “Allon a Luafette”, as it appears written undoubtedly in a French dialect, is a (Cajun?) two-step. I’ve never danced it, but I feel an unwavering rhythmic drive. I enjoy it, so much.
We have the 78, call number 78-3435 here at the Southern Folklife Collection. There is a lovely waltz on the other side.
Sorry to be so quiet around here lately. Summer in Chapel Hill may be quiet, but activity at Wilson Library intensifies as the temperature goes up. We’ve got exciting news about the SFC 25 year anniversary coming up so stay tuned to Field Trip South over the next few days. You’re going to love it.
But for this afternoon, to ease back into blogging this week I thought we could start slow with call no. 78-11107 by the remarkable Ida Cox accompanied by the one and only Lovie Austin. “Death Letter Blues” and “Kentucky Man Blues” are but two of 78 sides Cox recorded for Paramount between 1923 and 1929. Enjoy these segments, presented with no noise reduction or post-processing. Love the sound.
I am pleased to introduce the first post by another of the Southern Folklife Collection’s great student employees, Zachary Gossett. Always nice to see/hear what fresh ears can pull out of the stacks.Overall, May has been strangely clement, but it’s a fair bet to expect hotter weather soon. Here’s a little salsa to heat things up too! This track, “Yo Quisiera Ser” by Hector Rivera y su Conjunto, features a typical salsa ensemble with Hector Rivera himself on piano.
Although the stacks are home to a large variety of musics associated with the American South, the first ≈7000 records alone are peppered with some wonderful cuts of Latin and Caribbean music, including this compilation of the Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Afro-Cuban music from New York. The label New World Records is “dedicated to the documentation of American music that is largely ignored by the commercial recording companies”, in a similar vein as the diverse collections of folk song procured by Alan Lomax. It’s quite spectacular what one might find while perusing the records.
Enjoy this excerpt from EP, call number FC423: Caliente = Hot: Puerto Rican and Cuban Musical Expression in New York , New World Records.
Listen for the piano montuno, a repeating rhythmic/melodic pattern essential to many styles of Latin music, the coro—or chorus (with call-and-response), and the groove of the percussion.
Also, I can’t help but include a bit of Rivera’s piano solo.
To hear more, visit the Southern Folklife Collection in Wilson Library.